#16 Michigan State Football Game Preview: at Northwestern Wildcats

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mark-dantonio

Simply put, last year’s Northwestern vs Michigan State football game was drunk. It was extremely drunk, like an individual who gets kicked out of Rick’s American Cafe on St. Patrick’s Day. 

NU came up to East Lansing, and ruined homecoming by beating the Spartans 54-40, in a wild game that saw 28 points scored over a five minute stretch in the third quarter. Northwestern had scored just seven points against a FCS foe a month prior, but broke the Spartan Stadium record for opponent points scored.

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It was also the most points given up by a Michigan State football team in 14 years, which spans well beyond the Mark Dantonio era. While the two teams combined to score 94 points on that Saturday, the over/under for this game is 40.5.

“We played two top ten teams that have outstanding defenses,” Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald said after his team beat Iowa 17-10 in overtime.

“I think Iowa played a pretty damn good defense ..It’s a defensive league, when that happens you’re fighting for every millimeter out there.”

SPREAD: Michigan State football -2.5

KICK: 2:30 PM

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Michigan State football Preview: 

From B1G Champs and college football playoff qualifiers in 2015 to 3-9 in 2016, to 6-1 and the #16 ranking thus far in 2017- it’s been quite a roller coaster in E.L. How did this happen?

Well, the MSU program seemed to be an Icarus, which flew too close to the sun, and their wings melted. (You have to reference Greek mythology when discussing the Spartans, right?) Michigan State, had spent the 1990s and 2000s as a very mediocre program, until Dantonio initiated a golden era in the 2010s.

Becoming an elite program meant gaining the ability to sign elite recruits, and quite often those elite recruits come with a lot of character red flags.

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Unless you’re Urban Meyer or Nick Saban or somebody like that, you most likely don’t have the previous experience with the serious off the field issues that inevitably accompany signing low character but high star ratings on recruiting services kind of guys. You know what happened.

Of course that was last season and this past offseason. Dantonio has Michigan State football moving in the right direction again, and his roster has a ton of talent, due to all those stellar recruiting classes he signed.

Quarterback Brian Lewerke made his first ever start in that loss to NU last season, and he comes in as the team’s second leading rusher behind tailback L.J. Scott (the caught driving on a suspended license seven times guy). Scott has 495 yards rushing to Lewerke’s 313, but they both average 4.7 yards per rush.

MSU played a remarkably similar game to NU last week, beating Indiana by a nearly identical score, 17-9.

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Michigan State football has a star in the making, and given how the season has gone, yes, he’s on the defensive side of the ball.

Sophomore linebacker Joe Bachie leads the Spartans with 63 tackles and two forced fumbles, and is second on the team in tackles for loss (5.5 for 23 yards) and third in sacks (two for 14). He is tied for second in the Big Ten in tackles, averaging 9.0 per game. He was named B1G defensive player of the week in two of the past three.

At Michigan on Oct 7 Bachie became just one of five FBS linebackers since 2012 to record double-digit tackles (10) and an interception, pass break-up, sack and forced fumble in the same game. He recorded a career-high 13 tackles, one sack, and one tackle for loss against Indiana last week.

MSU’s game last week saw a combined 26 points, with NU’s contest registering just 27, and requiring an extra session to do so. Quite a contrast from last year’s high scoring affair.

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Asked about what the potential pace could be this year, Dantonio responded:

“I don’t know I’m just concerned about scoring one more point than Northwestern. We’ve had great football games with them, last year might have been a little uncharacteristic, but we’ve had some with them like that before.”

“We’ll just have to wait and see, I have no knowledge of that, I know we’re just trying to make it high scoring on our end.”

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Northwestern Wildcats Preview:

NU seems to be on pace for 7-8 wins and an appearance in either the Holiday or Foster Farms Bowl.

They’re getting it done in a manner very similar to the 2015 vintage. Remember that team? They tied the school record for wins, and they did it with defense, defense, defense, some rushing attack, and smoke and mirrors. They were somewhat similar to 2012 Notre Dame, in that they weren’t really quite as good as their record, and ended the season with a thud in a blow game blowout to an SEC school.

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Still that was a very good Cats team. Their win over Stanford, in which they contained Christian McCaffery, kept the Cardinal out of the college football playoff.

The strength of the team is their defensive line. “It starts up front,” Fitzgerald said. “I thought our defensive line, from the way they’re preparing, it’s showing up on Saturday.”

“I don’t see mental mistakes, I see us controlling our gaps, I see us fundamentally executing pretty well…(Iowa) self scouted some things,” said Fitz about last week’s performance.

“We were having to adjust especially defensively ..I thought our front 7 really handled that well.”

northwestern football tyler lancaster

The leader of the DL is tackle Tyler Lancaster, who can REP OUT!! much better and way higher in the weight room than you, me or anybody else we know. He did 37 reps of 225 on the bench press this offseason, a total that’s higher than anybody at the 2017 NFL scouting combine.

Asked about what the potential pace could be this year,

“That’s kind of fun to talk about on a Tuesday isn’t it?” Fitzgerald joked.

“Obviously, two really good defenses, statistically the Spartans are at the top of every category in the B1G, if not the country, so we’re going to have our hands full offensively.”

“I think we’re developing on defense, we’re playing a lot of young guys, and now we’re seven games in so they’re not young anymore, they’re seasoned. They just need to stay consistent.”

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Prediction: Michigan State football 21, Northwestern Wildcats 17

TAKE THE UNDER! It’s going to be a very tightly contested battle with the difference coming perhaps via another trickeration play, like the “mouse trap” at Ryan Field a few years ago.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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